Not content to rest on the laurels of its imperial past, Vienna’s more contemporary forays into art and design can be just as – if not sometimes more – compelling, and decidedly more dynamic.
Schönbrunn Palace … St Stephen’s Cathedral … the Belvedere … the Albertina … even a cursory list of Vienna’s top attractions packs the sort of artful wallop that would delight even the pickiest of culture vultures. And by all means as many of these (and so many other) places should be included in any sightseeing itinerary of the historic Austrian capital. But that doesn’t mean visitors to Vienna must relegate themselves to an urban escape set only in the past.
One of my favourite activities during my recent visit to Vienna was a walking tour led by independent tour guide Alexa Brauner – alexabrauner.at – to some of Vienna’s top contemporary art galleries.
Another highlight of my trip was the time spent with guide Gabriela Steiner-Scharfetter of wienkultours – wienkultours.at – learning about Viennese art and design while strolling around town.
I’d recommend booking tours with both Alexa and Gabriela. Certainly, the rest of this piece is the result of having the good fortune to tap into their knowledge and appreciation of art, design, architecture, and history of their hometown and to explore it with them.
Baeckerstrasse 4, 1010
In the shadows of St Stephen’s Cathedral is Bäckerstrasse 4, representing a range of international artists, slightly more than half of which are Austrian. On now until 20 May is The Artist is Present, the first solo show in Vienna by Swiss-born, Vienna-based artist Heir Häfliger, comprised mostly of vivid, large-scale sculptures and “canvasses” made of toilet paper with no additional colouring or other items added.
Absberggasse 27 (second floor), 1100
Not to be confused with its big sister art gallery (Galerie Hilger proper near St Stephen’s), Hilger Next at Brotfabrik – the site of the old Ankor Bread bakery now an enclave of studios, galleries, cafes and such (think a Viennese version of Brick Lane’s Old Truman Brewery) – provides a glimpse into edgier up-and-coming artists’ doings from near and far, with an affinity for subversion and street art. I loved the angry yet oddly endearing ink on paper works by local artist, Assunta Abdel Azim Mohamed, on show when I poked my head in.
Galerie Lukas Feichtner
Seilerstätte 19, 1010
For some of Vienna’s more out-there art, from the deeply transgressive to the down right kooky, a visit to Galerie Lukas Feichtner in the heart of the city is in order. In particular I found Austrian artist Ronald Kodritch’s imaginatively naughty works to be all kinds of whoa.
Georg Kargl Fine Arts
Schleifmühlgasse 5, 1040
Georg Kargl Fine Arts offers smart curation of mostly playful pieces at its space in the midst of the hipster quarter of Vienna’s 5th District, Margareten. Nextdoor to the large (and worth a looksee just for admiration of the interior) Georg Kargl Fine Arts is tiny art space, Georg Kargl Box, where I was more than intrigued and amused by Bernhard Leitner’s Watching the Sound audio installation consisting of wood blocks ‘dancing’ on a speaker reverberating from the sound of the blocks dancing on it.
Arsenalstrasse 1, 1030
Out of the galleries and into the public art venues, 21er Haus is Vienna’s ideal spot for viewing art from 20th and 21st century. The attractive, clean lines of the building itself, designed by Austrian architect Karl Schwanzer, demand a look-see from fans of modernist architecture. The Oswald Oberhuber retrospective on now until the end of June is especially wonderful and broad scope – if unfamiliar with this Viennese artist expect to be impressed!
Welthandelsplatz 1 1, 1020
Continuing with the topically current sightseeing theme, a stroll through Campus Wu of the University of Economics and Business (Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien) is a must for architecture adherents, especially those interested in the work of recently passed Zaha Hadid. Without doubt the showpiece of the campus is her Library & Learning Center – a wonder to behold from inside and out.
Keep an eye out for all the updates in my Wiener Demeanour series of posts about Vienna.